“ Address: 11 High Shore / Macduff / AB44 1SL / Scotland / Tel: 01261 833369 „
Way back in June this year, my partner and I had to take a trip up to Portsoy to get the car serviced. A couple of weeks before we took this trip my partners parents had visited the Macduff Marine aquarium with very good reports, so on our way back to Aberdeen we decided to investigate a little further. I remember the day well - it started off bright, not exactly sunny but a nice day all the same but by the time the car service was complete and we were heading to Macduff the weather took a turn for the worse and it started raining quite heavily so I was quite glad we had decided to spend some of our day indoors enjoying the marine life the the Macduff Marine Aquarium has to offer.
***Where is Macduff***
Macduff is a small fishing town situated in the north east of Scotland with wonderful views of the sea and hosts a variety of attractions including the Local harbour area, first built in the 1700's, Duff House and of course the Macduff Marine Aquarium. Macduff is approximately a 1 hour drive from Aberdeen which is where I'm from so not too far to go for a nice afternoon visit and as we were up in that direction anyway we thought it would be an interesting way to spend our afternoon.
***The Macduff Marine Aquarium***
The Macduff Marine Aquarium is owned by Aberdeenshire council and the aquarium boasts a host of marine life straight out of the largest bay in Scotland, the Moray Firth. Visitors can enjoy spectacular face to face views of fish and other underwater creatures native to the north sea without having to venture into the icy cold waters.
When you enter the aquarium itself you are faced with a reception desk and behind this you can enjoy the fantastic site of the kelp reef tank which is the only one of its kind in Britain. To the left is a gift shop where you can buy all sorts of marine themed souvenirs and to the right is the entrance to the aquarium itself. I'm always amazed every time I go to an aquarium at how quiet and peaceful they seem and I find that watching the fish and other invertebrate species very soothing and relaxing.
The first area of the aquarium you enter is the Coastal habitats section which contains A variety of display tanks housing various species of fish including Atlantic Salmon, Flounder, Plaice, Lemon Sole, Turbot, Dab, Grey mullet, Grey Gurnard, Sand Eel and Razor Shell along with an introduction to the Moray firth, which is basically a number of picture boards located in this area of the aquarium that provides visitors with information on the Moray firth and the wildlife that inhabits the coast, from sea birds to bottle nose dolphins. The Moray Firth interestingly enough hosts the largest resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the UK and can be seen all year round venturing close to the inland shores.
There are also a number of picture boards that detail information on the pollutants such as tin cans and plastic bottles or carrier bags that can be hazardous to the wildlife in the area and the length of time that it actually takes for these articles to break down when in the sea. It really makes you think about the impact litter louts have on our beautiful environment and is displayed in a very educational way that would make young children aware of the importance of disposing of crisp packets and other every day consumer products appropriately. This is certainly something I would like my kids to see if I had any and is a great way or raising awareness.
***Shallow waters & Jellyfish Zone***
Moving through to the next section visitors will find themselves in the Shallow waters and Jellyfish zone, this is where you'll find things like barnacles, starfish, crabs and mussels and of course jellyfish and again there are information boards everywhere telling you about the fish and their habitats, very interesting and educational.
It's amazing how many fish live in shallow water that we never see most of which are able to camouflage themselves against the rocks and are able to hide in amongst sea weed. The tanks in this area are open topped tanks so you can look right down into them and see the fish moving around from above. The sound of the water is so relaxing, I could probably spend hours just watching these underestimated creatures.
Of course there are also display tanks set into the walls full of jelly fish and anemone's with vibrant colours, which are so interesting to watch, just swaying about in the water. I always think anemone's look a little bit like rubber balls with tentacles swaying about under water and they don't really appear to serve any purpose other than to sit there and look pretty, but they certainly are interesting to watch.
The jellyfish just sort of bob about and I find it utterly amazing that these creatures have survived for millions of years in our oceans without bones, brains or hearts. Made up of 95% water you certainly do wonder what makes these graceful yet dangerous creatures tick - there's something the scientists aren't telling us I'm sure.
***The Kelp Reef Tank***
Essentially the kelp reef tank is an open air tank 5meters deep 10meters in diameter and holds a whopping 400,000 litres of seawater. You can view the kelp tank in various sections of the aquarium including the reception area and also when you first enter the Coastal habitats, just to the left is a big round window that you can look right into and see exactly what's going on. Being an open air tank it means that the tank is open to natural daylight which allows kelp seaweed to grow which in turn helps to form the tanks underwater community as it attracts a variety of organisms that live on and around the kelp itself.
There is a large viewing window located in the audio visual theatre where visitors can watch divers hand feeding the fish inside the tank, this isn't something that took place while we were there but I'm sure it would be fascinating to watch. A board is set up in the reception area advising visitors of feeding times and so on. You can also view presentations and videos in the audiovisual theatre and again you can find out what will be taking place throughout the day from reception.
The kelp tank truly is fascinating and contains a large variety of fish including a fish called the wolf fish which is an ugly looking creature and of course the thick glass accentuates the sheer size of some of these underwater creatures perhaps making them appear much larger than they actually are. It's amazing how close you can get, and I get all tingly just watching the fish swim about, totally oblivious to the fact that they are housed inside a giant tank.
***The Sea Lab***
This was my favourite part of the aquarium. In the sea lab you get hands on experience and get to touch some of the plants and organisms that live in the water like anemone's and so on, some of which you wouldn't get to see let alone touch unless you were out there in the north sea Scuba Diving.
There is an underwater video camera located in the sea lab contained within a little yellow submarine called Neptune, which allows visitors to be able to zoom in on some of the fish in the kelp tank but you have to pay to use it, I can't remember exactly how much but I believe it was 1 pound for 2 minutes of viewing time which you would have to pay on top of your entrance fee. I was happy enough just to be able to watch them in the various display windows located throughout the aquarium so didn't pay the extra money to use the underwater video camera.
Aquarium staff can be found easily and are more than happy to talk to visitors and tell them about the day to day running of the aquarium and offer educational advice on the fish and organisms that can be seen throughout.
***Deep Reef and Sea Floor***
The last area in the aquarium is the Deep Reef and sea Floor section where you can view animals that generally live on the seabed floor. Made up of mostly rock and sand, where no seaweed grows these display tanks host creatures such as anemones, soft corals, lobsters and feather stars. These creatures don't appear to do much apart from cling on to the rocks and hide under the sand. These are the animals that live on plankton that is pushed along under the water by the fast moving currents found in deeper waters just beyond the kelp reef coast. The Macduff marine aquarium is the only one in Scotland that exhibits some of the creatures that can be seen in the deep reef and sea floor section of the aquarium.
***My overall opinion***
The Aquarium itself is quite small and you basically walk round the building in one big circle coming out at reception on the opposite side to which you enter, but although it's small there are lots of things to see, and there is so much information on the boards that are located in each individual portion of the aquarium. The large Kelp tank basically is the central feature of the building which is why you can see it from various vantage points throughout the building.
It's a fascinating place where you come face to face with lots of sea creatures, fish and other organisms that you wouldn't come across unless you were brave enough to enter the chilly waters of the north sea.
My partner and I spent a couple of hours here just reading and learning about the different varieties of fish and watching them move about their display tanks which was very soothing and relaxing and made for a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon. If you've got children and you want to educate them on marine life and the effects the environment has on their habitat then this is a great little place to go to. The staff are friendly and welcoming and are more than willing to answer any questions you might have.
Explore the underwater world with the Kelp tank and watch fascinating jellyfish swim gracefully around in their own environment or at least as close to their own environment as you can get in an aquarium.
***Visitor centre information***
The Marine Aquarium is open every day from 10am to 5pm with last admissions at 4:15pm and if you are lucky enough to be a member of the RSPB then you can obtain entry for free on Tuesdays between the 1st of April and 30th September. Tickets are valid for the whole day so if you've just missed feeding time then you could always go back for the next scheduled dive. You can pretty much come and go as you please.
Prices for entry are as follows:
Adults - 5.50
Children - 2.75 (aged 3-15)
Seniors - 3.40
Family (2 adults, 2 children) - 15.20
If you're in the area or just passing through then this would make a lovely rest stop and if you have children you can guarantee they will be amazed and entertained at the aquarium.
The aquarium is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs with disabled-access toilets and baby changing facilities available within the centre.